Billionaire's Peeping Piper

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XLV. The Feeling of Suffocation

My nails prick against one another as I stared at the paper in front of me. I bit my lower lip so hard that I could taste the blood in my mouth.

It seems like rich and powerful people work fast.

Custody.

Harrison Hanson is fighting me for my children’s custody?

Is he shitting me?

Does he think this will pass?!

“It’s legitimate,” Jackson said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. The phone shakes in my hands, “Are you sure your lawyers didn’t read it wrong?” I’m accusing world-renowned lawyers. Lawyers that make more than me in a day than I do in a year.

But, I have to question it.

I have to be sure.

I came back from New York two weeks ago, and suddenly, I got a letter that says Harrison Hanson has the right to fight me for custody of my children. And I’m supposed to believe that the court supposedly approves it?

A man, who the children never met, is approved to fight me for custody?

How nuts is that?!

How corrupt is that!

My hand crumpled the paper.

“Piper. Breathe.”

I inhaled a deep breath through my nostrils and exhaled through my mouth. While I’m taking deep breaths, I’m thinking of different ways to murder Harrison Hanson.

I’ll find out where he’s staying right now - he shouldn’t be far. I’ll kidnap him. I’ll drown him. I’ll fucking slit his throat!

By now, my face is a deep shade of red, and all the deep breaths in the world won’t decrease the anger stirring inside of me.

“I’m coming right now with the lawyers, and we’ll figure out what to do. No one is taking away Crystal and Dustin,” he reassures me.

With his reassurance and a bit of time, my anger de-escalates a bit. I need to calm down, or else the kids will start to get suspicious. If they find out, most likely Crystal will want to meet him. He’ll somehow brainwash Crystal like he did to Emerson when he was younger.

I’m not stupid.

With enough content, I can tell Emerson had been brainwashed. He basically acts like a robot in all the videos.

The day passed by, and I found myself buried inside the bedroom. Crystal and Dustin are fast asleep. The videos are on constant replays.

I don’t know why I watch videos of Emerson over and over, but I do.

My fingers ran over his young face.

When a knock on the door appears, I close the laptop and get out of bed. On the other side of the door was Jackson. His presence somehow gives me comfort, and without control, I hug him.

A few seconds ago, I was looking at the photos of my missing husband, and now, I’m embracing another man.

I’m the worst.

He rubs my back, “It’s alright. Everything will be alright.”

If only everything were alright - it isn’t. The court date came faster than a blink of an eye. In the morning, I threw Crystal and Dustin at Tyler’s house.

“Hey,” Tyler said. “Is everything okay?”

I grip onto my bag, “Yeah. Why shouldn’t it?”

“Your eyes,” he said. “They’re really swelling and...have you been sleeping?”

How could I sleep soundly knowing that my children could be taken away from me?

No one, except Nina, knows my situation. I don’t want them to worry.

I can’t put Tyler, Amanda, or anyone else in another stressful situation. They have their own lives, their own families to take care of. They had already done enough for me.

I know I’m fortunate to have a family like them.

It’s a sad thought, but sometimes, family does turn their backs on you. At first, they don’t mind lending a helping hand here and there. They don’t mind watching your children on a weekend - at their house, eating their food. But, eventually, kindness does run out, and annoyance will take its place.

They won’t say anything, but with time, annoyance would grow into anger.

Why does she always throw her children at me?

If she can’t take care of her own kids, she shouldn’t have any.

I know they’re not the type of people who think these thoughts, but I’m afraid one day, my constant pleading for support will lead them down that road.

And for some odd reason, my gut is telling me that the less people who know, the better.

“Yeah. It’s just...work. You know I get stress easily,” I respond.

Tyler takes a step towards me, “If there’s anything you want to tell me. You can.”

I want to tell him.

“Ty-”

“Dad!” Martin rushes out of the house. “Vinny can’t breathe! His inhaler is out!”

Immediately, Tyler rushes into the house. I could hear the cabinets being raided. When I got inside, all the children were standing in the living with Vinny on the ground, gasping for air.

Tyler found the extra inhaler and rushed towards Vinny. He holds it against his lips and takes several deep breaths. Vinny’s body shakes violently in his arms for a moment before it calms down.

“I’m fine. I’m f-fine.” Vinny smiles, “I just got too excited earlier.”

The longer I stare at Vinny, the more his image overlaps with Crystal.

“What happened?”

Vinny points at a board game, “I won.”

Tyler exhales sharply before he closes his eyes. Most likely, he’s trying to calm down. “Don’t scare me like that.”

Vinny got out of Tyler’s arms, “I’m fine dad.”

Tyler ran his thumbs across Vinny’s red cheeks. “Alright.” He hands Vinny the new inhaler.

“I got a new game upstairs,” Martin intervenes. “Who wants to play?” Most likely, he’s trying to break the tension.

Crystal, Vinny, and Dustin raise their hands, “Me!” They rush up the stairs.

“Don’t worry so much, dad,” Martin said.

Tyler smiles lightly, “Thanks.” He messes up Martin’s hair.

At that moment, I knew. Tyler can’t know. Tyler shouldn’t know.

After I kiss Crystal’s and Dustin’s cheeks, I climb into Jackson’s car. “Sorry for the wait,” I said.

“Everything alright?”

I nod, “Yeah. Vinny just got a bit too excited.”

Jackson held my hand, and when I didn’t respond, he squeezed it. I turn my head towards him, and he smiles. When the engine starts and the wheels move, my sight turns back towards Tyler’s house.

“Nina called me,” Jackson said. “She asked if you’re certain you don’t want her to be there with you.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “I’ll keep her updated.”

Jackson stops at a red light, and his fingers find their way to get between mine. “They’re worried because they care.”

“It doesn’t feel good to receive all this support,” I respond. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t deserve the people around me.

“But it’s necessary,” he said. “When I was fighting to get custody of Abby. I didn’t feel like I should win. But, more so, I hated the idea that the other party could win.”

I remember a time when Jackson and Abby’s parents visit. There aren’t many words to describe the visitation except for anger, hostility, and violence.

“And all I thought was: I’ll try my best. Sometimes, trying your best isn’t good enough for other people. But, that doesn’t matter as long as Abby wants me.” Jackson glances at me, “Crystal and Dustin love you. It doesn’t feel good to receive all the support, but it’s necessary.”

“You’re telling me to swallow my pride. It’s not about me right now.”

Jackson smiles faintly, “That’s another way to put it.”

Jackson is right.

I need to pull my shit together.

This situation isn’t about me.

I slap my cheeks.

“Getting pump?” Jackson asked.

“Yes!” I crack my neck and fingers, then stretch my arms.

“Why does it look like you’re getting ready for a fight?” Jackson lowered my arms, “We’re going to court, not a cage match.”

“Even worse.” I choose a cage match over the court.

When we arrived in court, the lawyers surrounded Jackson. “Remember. Not to say anything. We’ll do all the talking,” the head lawyer told us. I have a feeling that’s more of a reminder for me.

We stop in front of the large double doors.

On the other side was Harrison Hanson.

He took a step forward and exhaled lightly, “It’s not too late.”

He’s talking about the offer he gave a few days ago. Before the court date, Harrison requested a meeting. During the meeting, he dared to suggest that he keeps my children while I see them once a week.

What?!

What!

Apparently, he’s willing to compensate.

Compensate!

In the end, I whack the chair on the ground and walk out of the hotel room. He should be grateful I didn’t grab the chair and whack him.

When I didn’t respond, the lawyer stepped in front of me. “I believe we had already reached an understanding in regards to your offer Mr.Hanson.”

Harrison exhales softly, “You don’t know what you’re getting into, child,” he said before he made his way into the room.

My nails dig deeper into the palm of my hands, and I could taste the blood in my mouth.

It’s going to be a long day.

Inside the courtroom, my eyes were cast on the cup of water in front of me. My hands squeeze and squeeze with each ticking second. I tried my best to fade out the bickering between the lawyers.

Because if I actually listen, I would snap.

And if I snap, he would win.

Jackson holds my hand again to express his support silently.

Everything and everyone tells me that it will all be okay - how the judge will favor me. After all, I’m the person who had been by the children’s side. I’ve provided them the best environment possible.

“You claim that Mrs.Lun provided the best environment, but records have shown that Crystal Lun has not gone to school for nearly a year. Now, tell me, how is this providing the best environment possible?!”

I close my eyes.

There is an electrical sting inside of my brain that’s quite painful. I need my medication.

“And records have shown that Mrs.Lun has been receiving medications-”

“Your honor! I object! Those medical records are acquired without the consent of my client.”

But will the medications help?

This headache feels different from the usual ones. It feels like that moment when I couldn’t reach Emerson. When I found Crystal broken and alone in the woods.

And when the judge pounds the gavel, my soul re-enter my body.

He dismisses everyone and calls for another meeting.

Outside of the room, the sunlight was no longer present - its nighttime.

We’ve been inside the courtroom from morning till evening.

There had been breaks, but I couldn’t find the strength to lift myself out of the chair. So, in the end, someone bought us food. I remember how Jackson would place the food and water in front of me, but I would only stare at it.

Then, it was time to return to court.

The bickering back and forth.

The terms I don’t quite understand.

The laws.

The objections.

The feeling of suffocation.

“So-” Harrison stood in front of me, “this is the woman he had chosen.”

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